Arsenal were a great club before Arsene Wenger, lest we forget!

A proud man returning to Highbury in 86
A proud man returning to Highbury in 86

Just occasionally the blind adoration of our ‘current’ manager riles me ever so slightly. The over playing of how Wenger completely transformed Arsenal and indeed the whole of English football could be perceived as slightly disrespectful to those who have gone before. There is a belief for some that it was Arsene Wenger who made Arsenal a great club. It was pure Wenger genius to somehow break the stranglehold that Manchester United and Ferguson had on the Premier League.

It may be that those who suggest that it is the Frenchman who made Arsenal great are too young to recall what went before. However having watched my team for over 40 years and live consistently for well over 30 I feel inclined to make a few points to balance the debate.

This is NOT in any way an article to diminish what Wenger has achieved during his tenure. In the main I have enjoyed the way he has evolved a style of play for our club and I admire his philosophy. Equally there are aspects that frustrate the hell out of me. However this is not so much about Wenger and more about just setting the record straight and giving context to his achievements. For me this blog is just about perspective and a little personal shout to Mr. George Graham who I feel is forgotten just a tad by so many.

You see I am still in awe of what was achieved at Arsenal between 1986 and 1992 under George Graham and contrary to popular belief in the first part of his tenure and particularly in 1991 our football was slick, adventurous and exciting to watch. Sadly the latter Graham years were not so easy on the eye but even in 1992 to 95 Arsenal were winning trophies. We won them by having a master tactician and the helm who knew how to win ugly, a trait for which Jose Mourinho is lauded by the word’s media for. I think Giving Martin Keown a defensive midfielder, man marking job on European 10’s was pure genius and when Rafa did it with David Luiz last year it was applauded.  I have even seen Arsenal fans suggest the role for Vermaelen and when Wenger did it with Manu he was a genius! You see, all about perspective and timing it seems

When Wenger arrived apparently Arsenal were on their knees.

 In truth Arsenal had finished the previous season in 5th place on the same points as the team who ended the campaign in 4th.

Wenger broke the total dominance of Manchester United.

 Since the advent of the Premiership in 1992/92, United had won all but one of the titles until Arsenal under Wenger won the league in 1998. So they had won the 4 out of the previous 5.

So a huge achievement by Wenger to win the Premiership in 1998 but the then failed to do so with arguably a superior side to United for the next 3 years, allowing Ferguson to make history winning a treble in 1999 on his watch.

Perhaps not quite as impressive as George Graham with tiny resources winning 2 titles in 3 years against a Liverpool side that had dominated far more than United and for longer. When Arsenal won the 1989 title, on that historic May evening at Anfield they were truly breaking a stranglehold. That Liverpool side had won 5 of the previous 7 titles, with only Everton threatening their complete dominance. Liverpool, being the great side that they were won it back in 1990 only for Arsenal and Graham to return and triumph again in 1991 and in style.

Just to reiterate how dominant Liverpool had been they had won 9 of the previous 13 leagues before George Graham’s Arsenal won in 1989. So it was not a surprise that they bounced back in 1990. What was a surprise and too often forgotten is just how Arsenal won the league again in 1990/91.

So a quick recap on just how impressive it was to break Liverpool’s dominance, not one but twice. At the start of the 1990/91 campaign Liverpool had won 10 of the previous 15 titles and had finished 1990 9 points clear of 2nd and 17 points clear of Arsenal in 4th.

Arsenal 1990/91 – How impressive?

 George Graham made 2 key signings in the summer of 1990 in Anders Limpar and David Seaman but was this enough to make up 17 points on the most dominant force English football had ever seen?

Liverpool finished the season with only 3 less points and still finished 7 points behind George Graham’s Arsenal who hauled in 83, 21 more than the previous season.

Arsenal only lost one game in the entire season and that when they skipper was in prison, scored 74 goals, more than the Invincibles, let in ONLY 18, far less than the Invincibles and ended the season with a goal difference of 56, 9 better than the Invincibles.

One of the greatest ever triumphs
One of the greatest ever triumphs

In my opinion the Arsenal team of 1990/91 were every bit as impressive as any of Wenger’s 3 title winning teams and the brand of football they played was disciplined yet thrilling simultaneously. I have no idea what changed in George Graham after 92. The style of football changed and his legacy was undoubtedly tarnished but the ride from 1987 to 1992 was every bit as enjoyable as 1996 to 2004 and just as rewarding, for this fan at least

Wenger is a genius in the transfer market

 No argument from me that in the early Wenger years Arsene uncovered some serious gems in the transfer market.  Arsenal fans have been rightly proud of his adage that ‘we do not buy superstars we make them.’

However when you consider that for next to no outlay George Graham signed Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, the first two from lower leagues and then Alan Smith and David Seaman it rather puts Wenger’s boast in context.

Thanks George
Thanks George

The harsh reality is that when I compile my own greatest ever Arsenal 11 there only 2/3 players in that team signed by Arsene Wenger – Vieira, Henry and possibly Pires

Has Wenger improved our youth policy?

 Another area perhaps conveniently ignored is that Arsene Wenger has done little for the club in the context of producing our own talent.

The  truth is that Wenger had no time at all for reserve team football before it was done a way with, yet in the 1980s and early 1990s the production of home grown talent was integral to Arsenal’s success.

Now we all know that football has changed and that the money involved had lead to the bigger clubs buying success but should this be at the expense of developing our own players? I have had cause to interview several of the Arsenal coaching staff in recent months and it has become apparent to me that the club’s attitude to anything below the first team has changed considerably.

Under Graham the interaction between the first team and the reserves was critical to the success of the club. For Graham his coaching and management style was collaborative and his reserve team manager was a key member of the team. He used the reserves to strengthen returning players, blood younger players and critically improve first teamers. Players in his first team squad where weaknesses had been identified would be given extra training by the reserve team manager and first team coach before being brought back.

Under Wenger every player who he deemed a first team squad member trained with him leaving the reserve team with those he did not rate and the kids. Of course there was a cost to this with only Ashley Cole breaking into the first team in the early Wenger years, but he was a product of the pre Wenger policy. To be fair to Wenger the changing rules on the substitute bench have impacted policy to a degree.

Again this is about personal perspective but I do wonder whether when the money was tight and the purchasing power was limited, this policy might have been regretted.  From 2006 to 2010 a bench full of hungry homegrowns, battle hardened in the reserves night have stood us in better stead than Silvestre, Denilson and Vela? The loan system has been preferred by Wenger but with the exception of Wilshere I am struggling to think where it has been used with real success.

So in the final analysis….

 As I hope I have made abundantly clear this piece is not about what Wenger has not done. The man has worked miracles and history will no doubt credit him for it. However I hope this piece gives some perspective to how much this club achieved in the later 80s and early 90s under a visionary manager at the top of his game who also transformed the club.

It was George Graham who made Adams a regular replacing an experienced professional, Tommy Caton and who signed Bould, Dixon and Winterburn.

It was George Graham who made the brave decision to sell fans favourites like Sansom, Anderson and Nicholas to build a new Arsenal with a blend of inspired signings and youth.

It was George Graham who made the unpopular decision to replace Lukic with David Seaman.

Simply one of the greatest signings in club's history
Simply one of the greatest signings in club’s history

It was George Graham’s collaborative management approach that saw players like Kevin Campbell and David Hillier ready to step straight into the first team exactly when we need them to with the title in 1991 and 2 years later gave is the one and only Ray Parlour.

It was also George Graham who gave us our first league title in 18 years and our first European glory in 24 years, something our present leader has yet to achieve.

Of course we cannot forget on our way to that European glory he gave us 1 Nil v Torino, 1 Nil v PSG and ultimately 1 Nil in the final v Parma. What that all give us? It gave us a signature song that had stated with us to this day.

So whilst we all applaud Arsene Wenger for what he has achieved with his 7 trophies in 18 years, spare a thought for the man who gave us 6 trophies in 9 years and genuinely broke a pattern of one club dominance that went back 15 years and not 5.

I reiterate this is not designed to belittle Wenger’s achievements in the past more to place them in context alongside another GREAT Arsenal leader who’s efforts are perhaps forgotten, either due to the nature of his departure or through ignorance. 


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  1. You keep stating that this is not to belittle Wenger’s acheivements and all, but that’s exactly what you are doing. There are other ways to sing George Graham’s praise without “belittling” Arsene’s achievements. At least, thats what i think. Prolly another WOB.

    1. No idea what prolly mean and you acronym usage is pathetic. I am an Arsenal supporter and that means I support the team and the manager. I go every week and have never booed mate.

  2. wenger gave us the best football we’ve ever seen on these shores and he gave us an unbeaten season but it starts and ends there…..graham was by far the better tactitian and won more in terms ratio of time and number of trophies also wengers trophy winning teams were built with the bases from grahams side with adams, bould,parlour et cetera. even in terms of looking at our last true leader vieira he was who he was under the tutelage of the greatest leader himself Adams including other players all from graham’s era….i also find it quite interesting that in 17 Years wenger has never won a trophy with a team consisting of players only he brought to the club…we’ve not done anything of note (CL Final) since the last player wenger did not sign left… bergkamp

    1. Only Parlour (27 matches) and Keown (8) were in the 2004 unbeatables but I guess its easier to be critical

      1. You entirely miss the point. I love Wenger and what he has achieved but much was achieved prior to his arrival and is never talked abou

    2. Also fans mustn’t forget that the claim that Wenger’s achievement was made easier because of the great back 5, this same back 5 that helped Arsenal finish 10th in 1992/93 and 12th (YES, 12th) in the Premier League in 1994-95.

  3. Absolutely incredible, you started by saying ‘This is NOT in any way an article to diminish what Wenger has achieved’ yet you go on to belittle Wenger’s achievement, all you have really achieved is show that you are an anti-Wenger person and spoiled what could have been an excellent article.

    1. You are not a regular reader of this blog my friend. I am not often critcal of Wenger and this is about those who forget we had achieved before him

      1. Look, I loved the Graham times as I did the Bertie Mee, I love everything Arsenal. Y=The praising of Graham is welcomed but no need to use Wenger and point out negatives to prove your point, simple as that.

        Yes, this is my first visit here but will join you again

  4. This is the best article i ever read been a fan it intresting u know the history of your i can say somtin about my club

  5. I doubt Arsenal would be 4th most valued football club in the world just behind Madrid, Barca & United had it not been for Wenger. Bayern’s chief saying ‘we waited for 20 years to get our own Arsene Wenger’ is itself testimony to the fact that Wenger has converted Arsenal from being a domestic giant to a European giant (without even winning a UCL yet). His genius in transfer market wasn’t restricted to buying unearthed gems. He also has the knack to sell stars for the right price (since we needed it financially) after they hit their peak – AND YET maintaining Champions League football.

    In the modern era, no manager would have accomplished what Wenger has with the resources at his disposal. Maybe 15-20 years down the line when you think of this period, you’ll appreciate the genius of Arsene Wenger.

    1. Have no recollection of saying anything in my article that disagreed with you. I suggest you read it without having a bias in advance.

  6. My only regret at George Graham’s demise was his eventual departure was for defrauding the club and not for the abysmal football we played and our league position at the time. Who else other than Wenger brought us beautiful football, economic stability and on field success.

  7. I can understand why some fans defend Wenger no matter what. I genuinely felt that way about Graham!

    For that reason I really enjoyed the blog!

    Good to be reminded of the Arsenal that I grew up supported!!!

  8. Wow u tell us its nothing to do with wenger and u write 10,000 words that contradict. U sure have em skills sir. Hope ur not a spud in disguise.

  9. I am a huge Arsenal fan and have been for years.

    You are probably right about GG – his legacy is tainted by his “second half” of his reign and the poor signings / style that plagued him as well as being a bit of a dictator in his role. The bungs did not help either.

    The above is a good history lesson and as we pride ourselves on our heritage and doing things the right way, it’s important to remember what others have done for the club.

    You are right that it does not belittle AW who has transformed the club from top to bottom and made us a global team associated with style and values.

    Hopefully AW learns from the history lesson so that his journey has a happier ending as he truly deserves it and hopefully does not need a similar article written for him in years to come but rather the last few chapters of his reign tell the story for him

    The club is bigger than AW but AW has made the club bigger and better. He was certainly helped by the foundations laid by GG and Rioch who signed DB10.

  10. Good article, enjoyed reading it as I started supporting Arsenal in around the 87/88 season.
    Hard not to feel the title winning side of 90/91 get forgotten against Wenger’s winnning sides and the dramatic win in 89. One defeat all season, 2-1 to Chelsea away if I remember rightly(?).

    As a Gooner living in Manchester it gets really annoying when United and City fans think Arsenal were a nothing side before Arsene arrived.

    1. Sai Ramsey

      Frankly, to me it doesn’t matter as much what fans of other clubs say than what our own fans have to say. Other fans saying that we were never a big club and blah blah, I can push that away as normal banter. But when our own fans say it, then it gets a bit ridiculous. And Dave’s article is primarily for such fans to realize that we’ve always been in the bigger picture in the past as well.

      Sai Ramsey

  11. Well done Dave. You always put things in perspective. But in your course to defend the achievements of Graham, somehow, you fail to remember that we had Herbert Chapman his successor George Allison -who took over after
    Chapman’s death in
    January 1934 – Arsenal
    won five First Division
    titles and two FA Cups in the 1930s. We also had other great managers after the war.
    But my big question is: don’t you think Wenger would have been more successful if the club had not opted for a new stadium and relied on him to keep them afloat with his youth policy? Give it a thought.

    1. I write from personal experience in the main and this was about our recent greatness being forgotten

  12. Sai Ramsey

    Hi Dave. Please do forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted anything from what you’ve tried to point out, but here are some things I felt we should also consider while putting things into context. I only started supporting Arsenal from 2001, so please do correct me if you feel my perspective or understanding is a bit skewed.

    1) The kind of hype (or stick for that matter) we see certain managers getting for their tactics these days is probably purely because there are more social platforms for fans to let their feelings known than what was possible in the late 80s and early 90s. For example, this very blog 😛
    At the same time, we should also not sight of how the game has in itself changed in the last 20 years.

    2) You said that in your best Arsenal XI only three players make it from Wenger’s era. Are you saying the rest are all from Graham’s era (his signings)? If yes, then I guess that would be a separate topic to debate upon as well 🙂

    3) The way Wenger extended the careers of the players you keep mentioning – Adams, Dixon, Keown, Winterburn, Bould and Parlour, is what gains a lot of footage as well because they all played well past their primes and you only see instances of such occurrences now recently (Giggs and Zanetti pop into mind).

    4) About Graham being brave to sell popular players, Wenger also let go of Henry and Fabregas and took a huge risk with that, albeit the circumstances in which players from each era were let go was probably different.

    5) If it’s trophies we are talking about then I don’t exactly see a comparison. Wenger’s vision for the future of the club, to me at least, seems to be far more progressive than Graham’s. At the same time, it could also be said that it was just good timing of his ideas of building a new world class stadium and continuing to play in the Elite competitions season after season worked out. Graham and Wenger have both had limited resources and they’ve achieved different successful results during their reign. Graham had trophies, Wenger has economic success during times when money speaks a lot more in football than anything else. We are finally seeing the fruits of those efforts now.

    6) I’m sure you’ll agree that the level of competition and even the fixture schedule these years is way different and more hectic than it was in the 80s and early 90s.

    7) You also talk about how Graham used his reserve team to good effect but Wenger hasn’t. However, when you look at the level at which games are being played and as to how many international players play in the Premier League now, home grown talent alone stands a very difficult chance to be challenging on all fronts every season. The way I see it, whenever Wenger has seen an exciting prospect in the reserves, he has pulled them out and put them to train with the first team so that they can get used to the highest level as quickly as possible. Do correct me if you think I’m wrong (since I’m not from the UK and so might not have a good grasp of this) but the difference between the level at which reserve leagues are being played and that of the current Premier League is way too different. So to me it doesn’t make sense to use the reserve leagues as a platform to spring back first team players after injuries or illnesses etc. We do know however, that Wenger has used this method in the recent past, maybe not so frequently now. Having said all that, We now have a very good British core whom we can call as our homegrown players, who will surely be playing an important role in the success the club will (yes, will) achieve in the future.

    8) You do touch upon the topic of having a bench of homegrown players rather than Denilson, Vela etc. I don’t think Wenger believes it matters where a player comes from, as long as the player has the skill and technique to play for Arsenal. If we are competing with world class teams on world class stages, we obviously need players from the world over and get a really good mix of these players who can contribute together as a team.

    9) I know this whole article was your own personal perspective on things and that you meant in no way to belittle Arsene Wenger’s achievement. You want people to open their eyes a bit and not blindly claim that he is the messiah we had been waiting for all these years and that in George Graham we truly did have an excellent manager as well. And on that front you are absolutely correct. When Wenger came, we were not a struggling club but he did take us to the next levels with a brilliant vision into the future. We’re talking about how Wenger unearthed talents out of nowhere. The Board deserves equal praise for hiring him when they did. To me that’s kind of ironic too. 🙂

    10) And about breaking Liverpool or United’s dominance; surely what Graham achieved then was a great feat. United however didn’t have a dominance of just 5 years. They went on to be competitive and to be on top of the Premier League for quite a while even after that, before Chelsea also came into the picture. However, until then, only Arsene Wenger’s team seemed capable of toppling them.

    Just thought I’d point out though – you seem to put focus more on the trophies the two managers have won in their stints (the way you closed your article). However, Wenger’s success is much more than just trophies and I have a feeling that the two men themselves, wouldn’t want to be compared in this manner. 🙂

    Sai Ramsey

  13. A great article .My memories go back to Jimmy Logie and the like, so my first great victory was the then Fairs Cup.George Graham was a great manager and must always be remembered for his victories.and not what followed.No one is saying AW is not a great manager but we have not won much lately have we.

  14. C’mon Dave. Who uses stats to paint a better picture than you? No one. But my point is; every manager that has won us a trophy or led trough turbulent times is great in his own respect. Be it Chapman, Graham, Wenger or any other manager that wasn’t that lucky in terms of trophy but led us well. Who would ever forget Anfield ’89? And the ‘nearly’ unbeaten run that Graham did. So also, we wont forget the fine football Wenger and the unbeaten run he did also. People on here are criticising you mostly coz they don’t know you or they are not regular readers of your blog, or maybe the touchy nature and presentation of this article. But on the whole, I think it makes a good read and a firsthand educational material for our young fans. Cheers!

  15. Not sure who forgets about GG or what true fan doesn’t know about GG.

    Loved the man, even with latter style of football and his move to that lot down the road.

    He gave me my first taste of silverware, he gave me the greatest night ever as a fan and I will forever be grateful to him. Some great memories reading this blog. But why couldn’t it be just about GG? Why the constant comparisons to Wenger?

    Personnally I think Wenger has taken us to another level on the pitch and as a club. He has not made Arsenal as you are 100% right in that we were a great club, The Arsenal, before he arrived but he and his vision have made us a better club. We have new foundations now that are reminiscint (excuse spelling) of what the first great manager Chapman laid.

    His style of football isn’t just one or two seasons its been a constant source of pride for us all over 17 years. Never been as proud (or upset) as I was in Paris in 06. Arsenal competing at the top table of European football and showing we belonged there.

    He rightly deserves his legacy as an Arsenal Great as does Stroller.

    Like Chapman they are both Arsenal greats and will be remembered as such. No need to compare one with any of the others.

  16. I would be interested in your combined team. Only three from the Wenger period? No Bergkamp or Campbell? Graham was a good manager who built a very good team in 91. Then he dismantled it and produced some of the worst football ever. Graham was good for his time. Wenger was great in his, the question is whether he is now out of his time

  17. Interesting blog, for likes of myself who were too young to appreciate GG’s glory years. In all honesty my memories of the man come down to two things:
    1. He accepted bungs and brought a club based on class & tradition into disrepute
    2. He went & committed the cardinal sin of managing spurs.
    You mention context though and a lot of the things Graham did were phenomenal but i do wonder if they could be done today i.e Sitting on 1 goal cushions & refusing to attack ( not to mention keep the ball on the floor)
    But there’s no denying that 90/91 team was special. Only lost 1 game all season.

  18. I personally loved GG and at the time. even if the football was dry we won a few cups so didnt really care but I feel his legacy is tainted
    1 by the bungs and
    2 he was a spud manager (no hard feelings but it was a bit lik3 your ex ending up with your enemy).
    I personally think the stadium move was needed to take us to the next level, my question is would the other managers of the past been more successful in that no trophy period when we were upgrading our infrastructure?
    Genuinely interested to know thoughts of other’s on this

    1. GG wouldnt have lost to birmingham in the final, and certainly wouldnt throw away a league cup final to chelsea by playing a weakened squad & he also wouldnt have that loss to bradford and blackburn

      1. “GG wouldnt have lost to birmingham in the final”?

        But he lost to Luton in the final, I was there.

        “GG wouldn’t have lost to teams like Bradford and Blackburn”?

        But he lost to wrexham, Oldham, Bolton and Millwall

        It happens to all managers

        George Graham gave us great times, perhaps the greatest night in Football history but lets not go OTT

  19. Would have loved to see those days of success. But couldn’t comment on this article, as I haven’t seen Arsenal without Wenger and I hope not to see anytime soon.

  20. Great read as always Dave. I have so many great memories from the GG era. No-one should ever take away from what he achieved. I think a lot gets lots in the pre SKY era as the we hardly ever see football highlights from before 1992 nowadays.
    Then there’s the way things went backwards in terms of playing style after 92. The youth players like Selley,Hillier, Dickov, Morrow were not a touch on Thomas and Rocky and even Parlour only really improved once AW took over as it was very much a p#ss head mentality before then.
    Also, selling Rocky and bringing in Jenson, plus the bungs and going on to manage the scum could all be reasons he’s not thought of with the same affection as he should.
    He is, was and always will be an Arsenal legend to me though. Thanks for the reminder!

  21. It’s a shame that people can’t separate their devotion to Wenger from the historical facts. There was life before Wenger and there will be life after him . Wenger has been great for the club and has steered us through a difficult financial situation bought upon by the new stadium but the stick that beats us of his never having beaten a Mourinho team would not have happened under Graham an infinitely more tactical manager that would have tied dear Jose up in knots.

  22. how graet was arsenal before arsene wenger? sorry, never heard of them until a couple of years after wenger took charge. world class club is not measured by trophies. blackburn, newcastle and their likes may have won titles but they are not world class like liverpool, manchester united, madrid, barcelona and bayern. that is what arsene wenger has helped arsenal to become. WORLD CLASS FOOTBALL CLUB. you dont get that by merely winning trophies. arsenal has become a global brand today with fans all over the world in every remote villages. that is what tottenham and everton of this world are dying to become. and here you are belittling the guy who has made it possible by comparing his achievement to title winning.

    wenger is a global brand and respected around the world for his kind of football and loyalty to the club who showed great faith in him by giving him the oppurtunity show the world how football should be played. not your local brother who left arsenal to manage tottenham.

    1. Sorry, you say world class clubs are not measured by trophies yet then list 5 of the most successful clubs ever; Mardrid, Barca, Bayern, Liverpool & Man Utd as examples?

      So what makes Liverpool world class, their witty fans and their famous old ground or is it their 5 european cups and 18 league titles?

    2. “sorry, never heard of
      them until a couple of
      years after wenger took
      charge.” well the rest of the world had, CAVEMAN…. its very obvious you are some teeanger who know nothing about the clu…we were way famous before wenger came, in fact when wenger first came here we had as many league titles as manchester united now look at the difference so dont even tell that he made up world class crap

  23. Well done Dave. Again, an excellent article but you can’t win. The slightest implication that others could may be as good as, if not better than Wenger brings the wrath of some supporters. Having been a supporter for many years (to give you a clue, the first manager I really remember was married to one of the Beverley Sisters) I have been witness to success and absolute desolation. Wenger has done a fantastic job and I will never say he hasn’t but as you state above, we have had good times before and whether it’s under Wenger or not, hopefully we soon will again.

    1. Sai Ramsey
      Eager to know what Dave has to say it though. And it’s a bit weird saying thanks to a Font 😛
      Sai Ramsey

      1. I have given up saying anything more on this article which has caused too much infighting. Dave

  24. Dave,
    Fron one “older” Gooner to another, I really enjoyed reading this and has me thinking back to my days on the North Bank through the 80’s, starting pre GG, now they were poor times! GG did stop Liverpool’s pursuit of title after title and had us playing some excellent football, although the later years were not good. GG will always be up there with AW for me, although the reason for his departure seems to have pushed his achievements into the background compared to AW or is it that too many of the Arsenal fans today are either too young or had not been born so won’t remember what GG did for Arsenal as a player and a manager?

    1. Sai Ramsey
      Like I mentioned in my comment above, I started supporting Arsenal only from 2001. But that didn’t stop me from gaining knowledge about my club’s history, it’s past heroes, historical moments etc. If someone this day calls himself / herself a fan of Arsenal FC, it’s also their duty and responsibility to get to know what went on with the club before they started supporting it. Or else, it just doesn’t make sense. In my mind, you can’t them claim to be a Gooner through and through. So if anyone feigns ignorance about our history or past heroes like Graham, then they’re not a Gooner for me.
      Sai Ramsey

  25. Arsenal were a world class club in the 1930’s know your history young man before you speak about Wenger and what you think HE alone has achieved.

    I see a link between Bertie Mee, George Graham and Wenger in the early years.

    That man is Don Howe.

    Even England were better when He was involved. Don Howe was one of the best coaches of his time and since he retired Arsenal and England have stalled.

  26. so the three premier league tittles he won is what sudenly take them to the level of liverpool and madrid? but he hasnt won anything in europe like lisbon benfica or porto. ajax and inter have won trophies but are they in the class of arsenal? this clubs were far ahead of arsenal until wenger. madrid havent won anything in europe since 2002 yet they stock continue to rise around the world.

  27. Hello Dave, it’s been quite sometime since we interacted. By the looks of the article, you seem to be doing pretty well in life. I’m doing good too. So the article as it is Dave, is nothing more than your hatred towards a French man getting all the credit for what he’s done. Let me ask you Dave, how many European trips did you undertake prior to Wenger’s arrival? Enlighten me on how many seasons of European cups we were a part of, before I continue my debate.

      1. Before I tell you the source, kindly answer my question Dave :). I would love to know, how often did you travel for European cup nights in your support, prior to the arrival of Wenger ? I completely acknowledge what Georgie Graham has done Dave, and no doub’t he is one of our finest managers, but why is it that you only talk about the achievements of GG ? why not talk about the achievements of the likes of Sir Chapman, George Allison, Bertie Mee, Don Howie and the likes ? I know a fair bit of history about my club since the times of Danskin and Hulme, but I would love it, if you enlighten me on how we were a truly global super power with over 100 million supporters across the globe battering European teams left right and center during the pre wenger era ? Please , help me to brush up on the Arsenal history Dave. I want you to do justice to this article you have written, by actually providing facts about how we were a humongous club in world football before Wenger arrived. And FYI Dave, have you forgotten, that Wenger was consulted on the signing of Dennis The God Bergkamp ? How could you forget Dave ? You have been a supporter for 40 long years. Help me out Dave, i’m really stuck here. :/

      2. I have no idea what you are talking about to be honest. At no point have I suggested that Wenger has not done all these things.

        However GG would have qualified for Europe most seasons but sadly at the time English clubs were banned.

        You seem to have me down as some Wenger hater for some reason. I at no point suggested we were a humongous club under George Graham so perhaps you should read again. My article was designed to give some context in relative achievements and to praise the man who truly broke a stranglehold of dominance.I ahve not discussed the world fan base of the club which is down to money and television rights amongst other things.

        I really don’t understand what you are reading and why you are angry.

    1. To qualify for the European cup(pre Champions lge) you had to win your league not just finish in top 4 end of lesson.

    1. I would be delighted with either in their early periods and not fussed on either in later periods. I will however support Wenger as long as he stays

      1. My question was right now who do you want / prefer to manage and stop to be a politician.

      2. Akash Deep,

        How long have you been a supporter of Arsenal and football in general. Your silly comments about the number of European nights played by Wengers Arsenal as opposed to George Grahams teams shows a lack of knowledge. You are probably just another of the millions of fans who think football didn’t exist before the premiership and sky!

      3. Yea Kevin, I’m not as well informed as you are, because I’ve just been a supporter during the wenger era, and I’m not as old as you are, who probably witnessed live, the football since sir Chapman took over. And if I might point to you, I’m in particular talking about European cup nights. You know, the European cup? The one we call champions league now? Yes exactly, I know you finally realised I wasn’t talking up the inter cities fairs cup or the inter toto cup or the cup winners cup. I’m just talking about the big European league, the European cup. If you the very senior and articulate supporter can enlighten me, then I’ll be forever indebted to you for sharing what you know. :-). Tell me, how was football during Chapman’s time? You must have seen the sheer genius of David Jack? The world’s most expensive footballer at the time we signed him ? You sir must be a fountain of wisdom when it comes to the history of the good old Arsenal. Help me out sir. Tell me how Wenger has done zilch compared to his predecessors. That French old bloke is overrated ain’t he?

  28. I’m genuinely disgusted with a lot of the comments posted in response to this excellent piece.

    They prove that a lot of gooners are not Arsenal supporters- they’re Wenger supporters. Their kneejerk defensiveness shows how hysterical they get if you praise anything about Arsenal before Wenger. They don’t give a damn about Arsenal’s history and belittle the club before Wenger’s arrival. You’re not supposed to value anything before Wenger according to them.

    They have no respect for Arsenal before Wenger-they don’t know anything about it and they don’t think it’s worth knowing about. To praise anything about Arsenal before Wenger is equated with diminishing Wenger.

    The fact is that it is these Wenger supporters (who are not Arsenal supporters) who diminish the club’s history, traditions and achievements in their single-minded zeal to remember ONLY Wenger and his years at our club, to dismiss and sneer at everything that went before it. For them, Arsenal did not exist before 1996.

    Heaven forbid any gooner praise Arsenal for our achievements before Wenger.

    As I said, these are not Arsenal football club supporters. They’re Wenger supporters. And if he ever left, they’d follow him, not Arsenal.

  29. I think you’re right that much was achieved by GG, but you also neglect the reasons he’s not more widely revered.

    He stole from the club. Which is hard to forgive.

    1. Stole from the club?

      Always thought he took a back-hander of a Norwegen agent when he signed Jensen ….. have I been misled?

  30. Good piece Dave.. Sparked plenty.of debate I see, and alot of nonsense being fired around.
    Just wish.people would cop on that your.Nit.exactly saying GG was better than AW, he’ll it’s like saying “I love arctic monkeys new album, but.I also loved t-Rex” and getting lambasted for saying.ones.better.than.the other, when you just said you liked.both, and didn’t.want.the be.forgotten

  31. The European cup was sold to the money men!
    Wenger has had more nights in Europe due to the fact that it is the top 4 teams that take part and the knockout format has made way for the group stages (again benefitting the money men). In the old days it was only champions who took part in the competition. Playing in The UEFA and other European competitions was comparable to the Champions league as these were for the second and third placed teams!
    Akash, it might be better if you actually do some research before making silly comments.
    Can you also point out exactly where I have said that Wenger has achieved nothing?
    It is Herbert Chapman who made this club!

    1. Kevin, I know that sir. I’m very well aware of it. But it is because of these money men, that Arsenal got the opportunity to become a global super power. The Arsenal have always been a big English club prior to the arrival of wenger. But were they a global power? Why does the club make champions league qualification a top priority every season? It is the money sir. The money that you so loathe, that is the life blood of this club, and every other functioning football club. I’m not the one to belittle the achievements of our past managers. But I don’t tolerate anything that is baseless against the current one either. To just be bullish about Wenger’s achievements is pure hatred towards him. Just like how Dave says he is disappointed that none talk about Graham, I’m disappointed he had to say he gets riled up about people heaping praise on Wenger. Riddle me this Sir Kevin, if people praise wenger, how does it mean we disregard the achievements of Graham or anyone else? That is what got me upset with the article. You can heap praises on Graham or anyone for that matter, but why bring Wenger into it? The wenger fans never belittled the achievements of his predecessors. And please I’m a staunch wenger supporter simply cause he prevented my club from turning into a joke like Liverpool. And I’m also a person who strongly believes our best ever league season was the 91 league winning season unlike how the majority consider it to be the Invincibles. It is just my opinion. I’m an Arsenal supporter first, and wenger supporter second. And please, I never ever questioned the God father and pioneer of the club. Never have and never will. Let’s just put aside the hostility towards a fine manager and support the team as he aims to lead it to greater glory. UTA

  32. If we’re being completely fair, then the following needs to be said:

    * Arsenal were a great club, but one in a down period, when Arsene Wenger arrived.

    * In spite of that, they were still much better off than they were when George Graham arrived.

    * Graham made Arsenal relevant again, and then made them champions again, before allowing them to slip.

    * Wenger made Arsenal bigger than ever, before allowing them to slip, but a “slip” season for Wenger was roughly equivalent to an “average” season for Graham.

    * Citing Wenger’s underachievement in Europe requires mentioning that Graham failed badly in his only European Cup appearance. Not that it was entirely his fault, as it wasn’t until 1999 that the top 4 teams qualified, and the Heysel ban denied Arsenal its rightful place in 1989-90, but that AC Milan team was one of the best teams ever put together, and we wouldn’t have beaten them, no matter what the round. But even with a 4th-place Arsenal, guided by Graham, qualifying in 1990-91, 1992-93, and 1994-95 (which would have taken precedence over defending the Cup Winners’ Cup), it’s hard to imagine Graham matching Wenger by reaching a Champions League Final, and then topping him by winning it.

    * Wenger won more with Graham’s back five than Graham did.

    * Wenger replaced that back five with players of, at the least, nearly equal ability: Seaman with Lehmann, Dixon with Lauren, Winterburn with Cole, Adams and Bould/Keown with Campbell and Toure. The only Graham-era players who had anything to do with the Invincible season were Parlour and, barely, Keown (more for his example than his playing, as he was practically an assistant coach by then).

    * Citing the Cup Winners’ Cup that Graham won is a double-edged sword, as it was a secondary European tournament, the 3rd-most-important, as it was folded into the 2nd-most-important in 1999. It also makes one sound like those Tottenham fans who cling to the fact that they’ve won a trophy since 2008 (a particularly dubious League Cup, if you even still consider that a “major trophy”); and also cling to the fact that they’ve won more European trophies than we have, 3 to 2 — never mind that we’ve won one since 1984 and they haven’t.

    * By all means, point out that Wenger signed Jeffers, Reyes, Silvestre, De-NIL-son, Arshavin, Gervinho, Santos. But also remember that Graham signed Jensen, McGoldrick, Colin Pates and Stefan Schwarz.

    * By all means, point out that Wenger let Cole, Fabregas and van Persie go too soon. But also remember that Graham did the same with David Rocastle, Niall Quinn and, arguably (in spite of one wonderful moment), Michael Thomas.

    George Graham restored Arsenal’s place as a great club in Britain. Arsene Wenger made Arsenal a great club on planet Earth. To put it another way: Living in America, and not exactly a kid anymore, I never even heard of Arsenal until the 1998 World Cup, when names like Vieira and Bergkamp were mentioned on our TV screens. Maybe it would have been different if Tony Adams had called a cab, and thus prevented what made himself unavailable for the 1990 World Cup, which could have made a bigger difference than anyone realizes.

    Graham could, theoretically, have made Arsenal known all over the world. He had the intelligence and the ambition to do it. Wenger actually did it. And saying that does not diminish Graham, or pre-1996 Arsenal, at all.

  33. George Graham’s title winners were not allowed to play in the European cup as English teams were banned.

    Arsenal are also big all over the world due to the Internet and just how much football is shown on TV these days.

    Don’t forget Bertie Mee’s team were only the second afterbthe Spuds to do the double in around a century. George’s team were very unlucky to lose at Chelsea to spoil an unbeaten league campaign.

    George was amongst many fans on the take at the time. The likes of Ferguson, The great Clough and Redknapp were all at it. George was the only one punished because the Arsenal did not want to sully the name of a great club.

    We were the first team to play under lights the first on live radio and TV.
    We have had a film made about the Club and we are the biggest Club in London. Arsenal notably have to compete with teams from the North who historically win the trophies but they also have to compete with dozens of clubs within London itself.

    We are a great football Club with almost al, the other Clubs being jealous of our Royal like history.

    I love Arsen Wenger and what He has done, however in recent years He has held the Club back from the base he built in the erarlier years. He gave up the fight with Ferguson, something George would never have done. I can’t forgive him for this.

    George signed a few duffers at the death but Wenger has played players for months on end who were never good enough for a club of our standing.

    Even the other night against the best Club team in Europe He plays a young lad who has not even played five matches. He has a German legend on the bench who earns £100k per week, He had Bendtner who has European experience and He also had Giroud. For some insane reason He chose a lad who is just starting his career.

    This was not the reason why we lost but as soon as we went down to ten men the Boy was left with no chance to nick us a goal.

    I lost faith in Arsen Wenger when he called Manuel Almunia a world calss goalkeeper. He played that Clown for years. Almunia was the worst Keeper I have ever seen at the Arsenal in 45 years of watching them yet He played him against strikers like Messi,Drogba,Ronaldo etc.

    Even today we struggle against the bigger teams as the whole Club and in my opinion Wenger himself has been bashed up so many times that he has lost all confidence.

    Last week we played the mancs and they were there for a thrashing. We bottled it and drew 0-0 which could hev been worse if Chesser had not made that save.

    I don’t remember when Don Howe retired but I know Wenger used to consult him and Don used to coach the youngsters. He was a great coach and a great tactician.

    Wengers earlier teams actually used tactics in certain games. We over powered most teams. Now we see little players with wonderful technique but not strong enough against the big players. Bayern the other day looked powerful and even with ten men probably would have took control of that match after the hour.

    Why didn’t he go the distance for Suarez? He would have made the difference between us beating the bigger teams.

    Can Wenger get us back to the top?

    If he sorts his mind out he can however I have more doubts than him.

    To summarise Arsen Wenger. He shows the kids the sweeties then snatches them away just as they try to grab them.

    1. Have never read a response that I have wholeheartedly 100% agreed with but yours fits the bill.

      Top comments that hopefully educate those responding who seem to lack the experience or indeed the facts.

  34. You are wrong about Arsenal not being famous the world over. The USA is NOT the world.

    Nearly every Italian cafe in London in the 70’s had Arsenal photo’s on th walls.

    Seven Arsenal Internationals played for England against Italy in the days when the Arsenal were the biggest Club in europe. Before Real Madrid had won anything. The war years stopped Arsenal in its tracks.

    I believe Arsenal were the first English team to play in the USA as I remember a team playing in Miami in the Graham years.

    Again the Internet and global TV have boosted the Arsenal all over the world but to say we were unknown is totla bullshit.

    1. No, I am right. On page 2 of his book about Dutch soccer, “Brilliant Orange,” Arsenal fan AND Ajax fan David Winner mentions visiting Amsterdam in 1973, a year after Ajax beat Arsenal in the quarterfinal of the European Cup, and finding the Arsenal name unfamiliar to the natives. And Amsterdam is closer to London than Edinburgh is: Getting a radio signal of an Arsenal match, had they been aware of the frequency, would not have been hard.

      Nearly every Italian café in London had Arsenal photos in the ’70s? That’s in London. How many Italian cafes in Rome had Arsenal photos? How many in Milan? In Naples? In Turin? In Venice? In Florence?

      Yes, there was the Battle of Highbury in 1934. Something most people, by the ’70s, hadn’t seen. By 1934, contrary to what you said, Real Madrid had won their league twice and their national cup six times, so it’s not like they were a small club anymore. The War stopped EVERY team in its tracks, but even so, Arsenal were already in a transition, as the 1930s stars were getting older and the players who would make up the 1948 League titlists and the 1950 Cup winners were arriving, and Arsenal were not close to winning the League in 1939.

      Arsenal were hardly the first English club to come to America. In 1952, a certain pair of clubs we’ll call The Scum and ManUre played at Yankee Stadium. While not English, Celtic beat them to the same stadium by over 20 years. (The 1923-2008 Yankee Stadium also hosted a “friendly” Milan derby, some Juventus games, appearances by Pele with Santos and Eusebio with Benfica, the first game ever played by the Israel national team, and a USA-England match in 1953 that was revenge for the 1950 World Cup.)

      Wenger’s arrival coincided with the Internet explosion which made Arsenal’s worldwide popularity possible. But his embrace of French players starting with Vieira, and African players starting with Kanu, advanced the process of making the club world-popular by years. You’ll notice Graham was unable to do the same with That Lot. Because Arsene Knows.

      1. Mike
        Just to throw my two penn’orth in. I was in Tangiers in 1977 and was astounded to find that the bouncer at the Hotel Africa night club was a fanatical Arsenal supporter. He had never been to Highbury and how he got information on the matches I have no idea but the way I saw matches was Moroccan TV (I won’t mention the 1978 Cup Final). So yeh, Arsenal were known quite far afield.

        PS If you’re ever in Tangiers and want a woman his names Tamsamani Larby 🙂

  35. You, my friend, have nailed it. And I think you’re being unnecessarily polite about Wenger. The usual suspects will hate comments like this; tough. I’ve been a fan since 1966, and appreciate another lifer’s longer perspective.

  36. A very good, articulate Post from an educated Arsenal fan, allied with some fine comments regarding our great history. Without Henry Norris, we’d have none of what we have today.
    Just for that unbelievable night at Anfield in May 1989, ‘The Stroller’ will forever be a legend in most Arsenal’s fans eyes. He blotted his copy-book by allowing personal greed to get the better of him, but we exist in a culture of capitalism that promotes and encourages greed, so is he any worse than our politicians?
    As you rightly pointed out, he brought a major European trophy home, for a so-called big club, Arsenal’s record in Europe under Arsene Wenger is woeful.

  37. Always grateful to GG for what he did for us – funnily enough, my favourite period was the 2nd half of 91/92. We didn’t win anything, but included some of the the most fluid attacking displays I’ve seen. And that devastating last 20 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday will always stay with me…happy days.

    It has to be said though, GG did inherit a once-in-a-lifetime batch of youngsters. Probably not far off the one that Fergie benefited from in terms of quality. Given the fact neither club produced anything like it again, we do have to put that down to luck as far as those managers are concerned, don’t we?

    Finally, I do remember Wenger getting grief for not playing youngsters in the late 90s and early 2000s – and then getting grief in the late 2000s for only playing youngsters and not signing experience.

    I suppose you can’t win – unless you win. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  38. George Graham’s title winners were not allowed to play in the European cup as English teams were banned.

    Not entirely true. 1991 Champions were allowed to enter the (then) European Champions Cup. They were eliminated in the second round, 4-2 on aggregate by Benfica. Including a home 1-3 defeat in the second leg.

    1. I know I was there but the earlier comment was suggesting GG mever qualified for Europe and of course he would have but for ban

  39. “This is NOT in any way an article to diminish what Wenger has achieved during his tenure.”

    This reads no differently than Ricky Bobby saying “with all due respect” before launching a torrent of abuse.

    Graham was a good manager who let greed ruin his tenure at Arsenal, but he wasn’t a visionary who fundamentally transformed not just Arsenal but English football training, fitness, nutrition, and tactics. Wenger’s success is behind Arsenal’s growth as a world brand, behind the Emirates stadium, behind the long term ability of Arsenal to compete at the top levels in European and World Club football.

    1. The amount of credit you bestow on one man is quite extraordinary. You are better in formed than I but Arsenal appear to have had more injuries in training and suffered at the end of games due to running out of steam an awful lot for a team trained by a man who revolutionised fitness and training.

      He has been a great manager and I hope he will proved to be so again but you have absolutely no knowledge of what other club were doing in the late 90s any more than I do.

      1. Just as a footnote to your article goonerdave, for me there are seven pivotal moments in Arsenal’s history before the historic move to the new stadium.
        The first was when Glasgow Rangers saved Arsenal from going out of business at the turn of the 20th Century,by buying two shares.
        The second is without doubt the ownership of Henry Norris who took a struggling South London club and with a mixture of wealth, influence and some tasty dodgy shenanigans made Arsenal one of the most powerful institutions in the world.
        The third was the decision to move from south of the Thames to North London so we could show Tottenham how a proper classy Football Club operates.
        The fourth pivotal moment was the appointment of Herbert Chapman, who with Norris’s wealth completely revolutionised Arsenal. He led Arsenal to their first major trophy with the FA Cup in 1930, against his old club Huddersfield, and brought the title home a year later. Having won three successive with Huddersfield, his vision, tactical nous and the legacy he left after his premature death won Arsenal many more trophies and reverberated around Highbury for many years.
        Number five, for me personally was the summer of 1976. A true scorcher with endless weeks of brilliant sunshine, the downside being that you had to share the bath-water with the whole family, which never turned out great if you were a kid, like me. As it stood, Liverpool had just won their ninth title and second UEFA Cup, but you knew there was more silver-ware because Bill Shankly had Bob Paisley between them had made Liverpool virtually an unstoppable force. In respect of that, I have to question the wisdom of the Arsenal hierarchy. Bertie Mee temporarily halted what had been a lengthy decline, but incredibly broke up the UEFA Cup and ‘Double’ winning sides which led to another mini decline. A response and a statement of intent was required after parting company with Mee.
        Terry Neill has to be one of the most uninspiring managerial appointments in the club’s history. In his eight year stint he never really threatened to win a title and lost three of four Cup Finals in three years, one against Second Division West Ham. By the time of Neill[‘s departure in 1984, Liverpool had raced away from Arsenal, winning further titles as well as winning Europe’s most coveted prize four times. Since Neill’s appointment Liverpool elevated themselves to a level that we Arsenal fans still crave today and can only dream about, which only serves to highlight how damaging it can be if the BoD’s make the wrong choice.
        Summer 1986, the sixth pivotal point of the club’s journey, and one that probably best explains why Arsenal still don’t have a European Cup. And apologies to anyone who doesn’t agree, for me, it is a decision that the Arsenal Board have never atoned for.
        Of course it was the year Arsenal appointed the very man being fondly remembered here, George Graham, but if the Board had been a bit braver they’d have snared someone even better.
        No hindsight needed, the Arsenal Board agreed terms with a manager who had broken the Old Firm dominance in Scotland and beaten Real Madrid in a major European final. The only reason the deal collapsed was because the Arsenal Board were too impatient to wait a fortnight for Scotland’s inevitable elimination from the World Cup. George Graham was good, Alex Ferguson was phenomenal, and it’s a decision that will baffle me to my dying day.
        The seventh is clearly 1996 and the appointment of Arsene Wenger, who isn’t in Ferguson’s league, and a manager I personally don’t rate as highly as Chapman. His eight years of failing to win any significant trophy is being rewarded with the offer of a new bumper £8m a year three year contract. Why should he try to win a major trophy when the hierarchy consider CL qualification a hugely successful and satisfactory season.

    2. With all due respect, Arsenal’s global brand will diminish fast if they continue to show such little ambition. Settling for CL qualification should never be enough, especially if you are armed with the resources to actually win it, but choose not to try.
      The Emirates has priced most of the hard-core Highbury faithfuls out, lacks a real football atmosphere, and eight years on, it still doesn’t feel like Arsenal’s spiritual home.
      As for the long term ability of Arsenal to compete at the elite level across the world, the time has arrived, it’s a now or never moment.
      Abramovich was already settled at Chelsea and lavished £millions for both Ranieri and Mourinho to spend on world-class players when Arsenal moved to The Emirates in 2006, and yet throughout all the excitement and celebration of moving, Chelsea’s spending wasn’t once mentioned as a cause for concern. It only became an issue because Chelsea’s new-found success has highlighted Arsenal’s recent failings.
      Abramovich isn’t going away, neither are MC’s Sheiks or Liverpool’s Fenway Group.
      Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barca, all spend big money because they demand the best. Financially, Arsenal definitely have the power to mix it up in this company, but the current regime of Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger are either far too frugal and not brave enough to think big and speculate, or collectively they’re not intelligent enough to formulate a winning strategy. If that doesn’t change quickly, Arsenal could conceivably be left behind.
      There is no real progress since moving to The Emirates, in fact Arsenal’s performances in the CL have declined since 2006 and show no sign of improving. We’ve allowed Chelsea to become London’s main football force and the BoD’s feel under no obligation or pressure to respond, that’s why Arsenal aren’t competing at the top level.

  40. Very timely article. Not a regular on here but felt I had to say thank you and well said.

    GG’s record suffers because of the changes in football since his success and the manner of his exit.

    The Emirates just wasn’t a possibility in his day and, of course, AW wouldn’t have done it but for a few inspired Board members.

    For many fans, only the last few years exist. They have no real depth to their knowledge of the game or of Arsenal. Which is to be expected as many have no real depth to their knowledge of wider history and events either. Therefore it is simple to see AW as the first, and only, great manager that we have had.

    I’d also go along with your comment replying to some that you’d take either GG or AW in their early years but not too bothered about their later ones. Arsenal have often failed to make the most of potential periods of dominance.

    All the best. Up The Arsenal.

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  42. That piece has certainly prompted some comments Dave !!! Despite your plea’s for it not to be misunderstood, many seem to have !! I found it to be a great read, and fully understand where your coming from. Keep up the great work !!!

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